On the morning of May 30, seven women and two men were forced to leave the country. These people had been detained for between three weeks and nine months. Here is the account of a detainee who witnessed what happened. She spoke to The Prisma. Memorias de The Prisma. Junio 2018.
Virginia Moreno Molina
“Detainees are being taken by force to a charter flight for a mass deportation”. This was the first message that the Prisma received on Wednesday morning May 30 from Yarl’s Wood. It was followed by more calls and texts which detainees kept sending all day, reporting what was happening.
About 3.30 pm, seven women and two men originally from Ghana and Nigeria, were taken to a bus belonging to the Hallmark Coaches company, and from there they were taken to the airport.
They all had one misfortune in common: they were detained in Yarl’sWood, one of the detention centres in the United Kingdom which has been the subject of the most questioning in the media and by activist groups.
The Prisma has published reports on this subject several times, and in recent issues has sought to publish witnesses accounts of these ‘personal tragedies’ which many people are either unaware of, or think that they are not so ‘terrible’. It has published accounts about detention as a routine, and the testimony of one detained couple.
The case of the nine people deported is the same as that of the 400 detainees who are waiting for their freedom in Yarl’s Wood, and the rest of the immigrants who find themselves in other detention centres in the UK.
This seems to be a situation with no end in sight, although there are groups such as Movement for Justice, which are calling for Yarl’s Wood to be closed.
The Prisma spoke to one of the detainees still in detention, who decided to hide their name to avoid possible problems, because “the Home Office may victimize me, they victimize people”. We have here her account of what happened that day:
“It began around 9:00, the guards came and opened the door of this Ghanaian lady. I wasn’t awake at that time. But when I went to the IT room and I was on my way back around 9:30, there was screaming.
What happened is that the guards went to her room, I think she just had a shower or she just woke up because she had a towel around her. And they (guards) kept telling her ‘you have to come out of your room, you have a charter flight’. So, she ran to another lady’s room and said ‘I am not ready to go, I don’t want to go’. She was screaming because they were pulling her and telling her ‘you have a charter flight’.
We went upstairs, where there were already officers, and more were coming and were strategically placed around.
They were telling us ‘go to your room’ and we said ‘no, we want to know what’s happening’. But they said ‘go back to your room’, so we came downstairs and they locked the doors and the main entrance.
The lady was screaming that she didn’t want to go, that she had an application being processed, and why were they treating us like this.
After that, they opened the main doors and we managed to go upstairs. This lady was in another room trying to speak to a lawyer saying that she had a judicial review, and the lawyer was asking her not to leave the centre. And she was trying to explain all that to them and the officers just said ‘we are following Home Office orders, they have told us that you have to come out of the centre and get on a charter flight’. She was just resisting for a really long time.
Around 20 people including me came to stand near the room where they were holding her, and the officers kept threatening us, but we refused to move, and we stayed there for about three hours.
They kept intimidating her saying ‘we are going to use the force’. Eventually, there were maybe ten officers there. That was about 12:30. She was screaming, she was kicking, but they didn’t let us see what was happening inside.
We said ‘what is happening? ‘, and they said that everything was fine, they were recording everything and that everything was done properly.
They put handcuffs on her hands and she was wrapped in the bed sheet because she was naked.
And there were a lot of men holding her hands, her legs, there was no dignity. She was screaming so much telling them that she didn’t want to go.
They used so much force on her, about ten men and she was one lady, and they dragged her out of the room with the bed sheet. She didn’t have clothes and there were men lifting her, when she was in handcuffs. They just took her to another corridor and closed the door behind. They put her in the reclusion unit, where you can’t talk to anybody, you don’t have access to your phone… We tried to ring her phone, but it was switched off, so we believed they took her phone.
Eventually, she was deported in the charter flight.
They took 10 people, there were 2 couples and 6 ladies. Some of them had family here. One of the ladies had her children here, and I think the children are British, they are in social services. She had her mother and father and her brothers are here. Another lady has a British partner, they were living together but I think they are not married legally. Another lady has her mother and partner here. Another one came on holiday with a 6 months visa and they arrested her at the airport and I think her visa is finished now, they waited for the expiry of her visa to take her.
Some of these ladies have been here [Yarl’s Wood] for nine months, seven months, six months, 5 months. One of the couples has been here for 5 months and the other for only two or three weeks. Three of them were asylum cases, the other I don’t know.
I am so traumatized, it is so scary, because we witnessed what they did to that lady, she is called Christine, and the way she was screaming… It is really traumatizing because if they did that to another person, they could do that to me.
And I am so frightened, I can’t even sleep because I don’t know when they will come to my room and take me or do something. It is horrifying.
The only thing that the officers keep saying is that they have a job to do, that someone has to do this job, so they keep justifying it saying that they have been given instructions from the Home Office and that they are implementing those instructions. I understand that SERCO’s job is for our welfare, and they only have to keep custody of us. But they shouldn’t use so much force on us.
When a member from the IMB (Independent Monitoring Boards) was asked why they used so much force to remove that lady, she said ‘they have a legal right to use force to remove anybody that refuses to leave the centre’. She said ‘if they don’t use force and she refuses to go, then the next person will refuse too so the Home Office won’t manage to remove anybody’.
But people have the right to refuse removal.
But what upset me is when she was asked why only when black people are being removed, there are so many officers. And she said ‘because black people always resist, that’s why they are taking precautions, and they have to use so many people’.
And that’s a racist profile, because she has in her mind that black people are going to resist so you are going to use as much force as you want, and you won’t care if you are going to hurt someone, cause her stress or depression.
But she is not an independent worker, she is working for the Home Office.
We are really scared, we want someone to come and help us”.
Two days after what happened, The Prisma spoke again with the protagonist of this testimony, who told us: “Christine went up to the airport, they put her in seclusion but today she came back to main detention”
Antonia Bright of the Movement for Justice said about Christine: “She shouldn’t be there (about to be deported) and she tried to explain this to the guards but they ignored her, they tried to take her anyway. She hasn’t been deported, but it was 10 guards against one woman.
She stood her ground and while she was in her room surrounded, several other women stayed in the corridor outside defending her. For hours they held out, making it impossible to take her out secretly or quietly”
Translation (intro) and proofreading Graham Douglas